Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cloak and dagger -- a note on knife fighting

'Round the cracker barrel t'other day, the talk turned to knife techniques for self defense. Something came up that was interesting enough to share here.

One very good way to use a knife is with the knife hand held to the rear. The free hand runs interference for the knife hand and preserves the knife hand's freedom to act. You can use the forward hand to block, grab or hit, but its main job is making sure the knife hand is not pinned or obstructed.  Then, when an opportunity presents, in goes your point.

Of course this leaves your forward hand vulnerable if the foe has a knife. One old answer is to wrap your cloak around the forward arm to protect it, the origin of the term "cloak and dagger." But have you ever heard of knife and hat? That one's from Spain, the method of using your hat in your off hand to distract and to defend, intercept another's blade or smack him in the face or whatever.

All such methods bear a family resemblance to the classic way of using the Roman sword. The legionnaire used his shield to screen and protect his short sword and sword arm until he was ready to make sudden use of them.

Street improvisations you might use these days: You may use a briefcase, an organizer notebook, or what have you, as a shield. Or you may use a flat cap or a ball cap, or some other type of hat that might be used to catch an opposing blade. The basic tactic remains the same whatever you substitute for a shield. It is an ancient tactic but from that we may conclude it is pretty good, since stupid ideas are generally customary for only a generation or two, not for centuries. That is why a long tradition deserves some degree of respect; it worked for somebody!

Lots of people carry knives for everyday utility purposes with the idea that a knife might serve also as an emergency backup means of self defense. Often they do not have much in the way of a plan that tells them how they are supposed to use a knife for defense. Here is a plan that is simple and proven. Once you learn it you are not likely to forget it. It is better in those respects than fancy martial arts techniques that appear to involve a lot of waving in the direction of the adversary.

Col. Rex Applegate, the fellow in the top illustration, wrote a short instruction book on this kind of fighting. It spends too much time extoling the virtues of a fighting knife he designed, but otherwise the book is good--clear and direct in describing the technique.

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